This is our journey & our normal. #specialneeds #AutismAwareness #MentalHealthAwareness #advocate #mother

If you don’t have time to read this entire post, then just keep scrolling.

If you don’t have a special needs child or a child with a mental health condition, then you have not a clue what it’s like in our world. So don’t speak on something you haven’t no experience with.  And don’t put us inside the general population of general parenting, yea there may be some commonalities but not all the way. We do what we gotta do to help ease our own daily challenges and frustrations and we don’t need you to advise us on what you think works. I don’t care even if you’ve accomplished a degree in child psychology because it still doesn’t and will not ever compare or measure up to the daily challenges that we live with, battle through, and sometimes pull our hair out about throughout the entire day and wake up to the next day and do it allover again.  It’s really NOT as simple or as easy as we make it look.  Behind closed doors alot of us parents, caregivers, have a lot to navigate through.  So after your few minutes of assessing a situation, and your input is to just spank him/her or some other punishment that you think works effectively, well it doesn’t. 

Some of us parents, have it harder than others, some of our children aren’t able to verbalize how their day was while in another person’s care, and they become just as frustrated about things as others would, only their unable to verbalize it to us, so we are left to figure it out based upon other behaviors.  Some of us have children who can verbalize their day, and yet they have behavioral issues that are sometimes unexplainable and outbursts that occur for no apparent reason.  Some of us have children that have destroyed our property because of their aggression and anger but we don’t talk about that.  Some of us have children who appear “normal” by physical appearance but their bullied because of how they sound when they speak.  Some of us have adult children who are still wearing diapers and aren’t toilet trained.  Some of us want to do things just like any other average family, but it’s not possible due to other factors. Some of us can’t work because of the needs of our children, the multiple hospitalizations, ongoing procedures, medication management, feeding therapies, etc. 

Some of us are at a point where we’re fed up with others saying insensitive statements.  Some of us have chosen to become advocates for others.  Some of us are tired of the jerks in this world, but who isn’t.  Some of us just want to be able to have a full nights sleep without our kid getting up at 3am and rewinding their Barney tape.  Some of us just want a day where we can breathe and have some quiet time.  Some of us just want to the freedom to relax and not have to always feel rushed because we feel tense because we know our child is getting ready to have a public meltdown. 

Most of us lack outside, trustworthy, adequate, appropriate supports.  And therefore we don’t want to just put our child into the hands of just any caregiver.  Some of us have to walk on eggshells.  Some of us have to avoid triggers that set our kids off.  Some of us are drained and worn down.  However, we get through it, and we learn as we go.  We make it look like it’s no big deal. 

Another fact, most others don’t know, is this, many of us special needs families don’t have very many close friends, many of us are left without that village to help us raise our children.  Few of us have extended family support and compassion.  Many of us don’t get included or invited to your typical gatherings, so we stick to our own familiarity of “special needs events” so we don’t have to worry about being a “bother” to others, so we don’t have to deal with the stares, or hearing whispers and laughter at us and about us, not with us or together.  Ask yourself this, how often do you see any special needs individual out in public on a day to day?  Like when your at the mall, in the grocery store, or dining out at a restaurant?  To be honest, unless our child is “higher functioning” than you don’t see any of us. 

There are so many different terms and labels and categories that in my own opinion and it’s become white noise to myself.  None bother me anymore.  I’ve heard: “handicap, disabled, delayed, special needs, downs, autistic, non verbal, high functioning, low functioning, and they fall under the spectrum” and that’s just a few.  In anycase, Our normal is “our normal”.  Understand this, years before we even probably had a thought of bringing forth children, we didn’t forsee our future like this.  I don’t think any parent has ever envisioned what it would be like to raise a family with a child that will require extensive round the clock supervision and care well beyond adolescence.  

If we’re all unique, all different, not one of us the same, than who are you to say, our children don’t fit in.

I think if I’m honest most of us special needs parents had visions of having a child who would be considered the “typical” child who is self sufficient on an independent capacity and can work a full time job, play regular sports, and possibly move out and get married one day.  Well the truth is, for some of us, our journey has taken us a different way, and that is no longer our vision.  Because it’s truthfully unrealistic.  All I’m trying to say here is this, don’t be so quick to put your mouth upon what “you’d do if that was your kid”.  And I do know this, I’d like to believe that all of us parents, absolutely wouldn’t change a thing about our child now that they’re here and even with all the challenges. 

We’re doing the very best we can to keep them educated, safe, loved, cared for, nurtured, disciplined, corrected, and encouraged, inspired and respected.  So please the next time you’re out and you see a situation where you might normally be so quick to throw in your 2 cents, instead remember reading this.  And if after all this, you have an attitude of “that’s their problem or I don’t care they still need to….” Or something to that affect, than your just a cold hearted individual who lacks compassion and most of all you lack trying to understand.  All you see is what’s occuring in the moment.

Thanks for those who will respect what I have to say.  And if your a negative Nancy, keep it to yourself and just know this, our truth is our truth, our journey is our journey, our normal is our normal, and our experience is what makes us experts in what we have lived to tell others who are just beginning their journey as a special needs parent and might be feeling confused and hopeless.  There is hope in Jesus and there is support and advocacy out there. 

I’m just one mom who speaks on behalf of some others.  I’m just brave enough to write and share what some still may not have the courage or feel the need to say.  I’m just a mom and this is just a small part of my journey with motherhood and parenting.  Be blessed! -Erika

My journey with Mental Health & Special Needs advocacy. #MentalHealthAwareness

Hear me out…then if you agree please share it to support my journey with advocacy & my truths as I know them. #MentalHealthAwareness

I’ve learned along my journey with advocacy for Mental Health & Special needs, that my truth may not be yours but it’s my lived experiences that make me an expert in what I’ve encountered as a mom & caregiver. I’ve learned that I can no longer expect others who are either wilfully ignorant or misinformed or inexperienced, that ⬅”these” will likely NEVER get understanding or be able to accept the facts as I know them, which are: Mental Illness isn’t a demon that you cast out, nor is burning sage or other witchcraft going to help “fix” this. Mental illness is a medical condition and it is a brain disease, that impacts the ways a persons brain functions.

Individuals with developmental delays, down syndrome, special needs, autism, to name a few, are not cursed, and their family isn’t cursed. My own son has developmental delays and he is the most loving, kind-hearted boy, he loves Jesus! What he has isn’t contagious & he doesn’t deserve to be looked at like he himself is a disease just because he walks different and talks different. No one deserves to be mistreated. People are so quick to label and put stigma onto those living with mental health conditions and special needs conditions. They tend to think the family is cursed or in some cultures they will disown them. Mental illness is not evil. Mental illness is an unfortunate disease of the brain. I won’t expect anyone to understand this because it’s not their lived experience, they just watch tv or what media hypes up without complete and accurate education. In other words, unless you have experience what its like raising a child with a mental illness/condition or special needs than I no longer expect you to get it. Just as much as the flu hits you and you get very sick with symptoms, is similar to that of how someone can become sick with a mental health condition, it’s not something we want, it’s not anything we saw coming, but mental illness(es) are NOT contagious. They are NOT a spirit that transfers to someone else for all you deep spiritual people. They (mental illnesses) are hereditary and known to skip a generation but not always. They are treatable and they are medical conditions. Have you ever sat down and tried to talk to someone about something & their response lets you know within the first few words that this conversation is going no where. So you just stop. Let me just say this, unless you’re willing to learn & educate yourself, then don’t form an opinion based off what you heard or what you saw on a TV show or movie. Unless you live this day in & out, you can’t even begin to know what it’s like to feel isolated, scared, hopeless at times. Its especially hurtful when you can’t even turn to your own family because they just don’t get it. Let me just say this, you might know of someone who’s living with a condition, or you have a relative, or you work in a clinic or at a hospital so you think you can relate, well let me say this, it’s NOT the same & I believe anyone who’s walked a similar journey as me, will agree.

My other son, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder & he is also the most kind-hearted, comical, genuine, respectful young man. He has a heart for God & he is overcoming his battles, he is a full time college student, he is a college student-athlete. He’s truly a warrior. All Glory to God!

And let me also say to some in the church, Stop running people off because you’re uninformed and unequipped to handle someone who has any one of these health diagnoses, and you ignorantly take them to the altar and attempt to cast out a demon, cuz it ain’t going to work, and you wanna know why? Because their ain’t no demon to cast out. Pray for healing to take place instead, pray for doctors to find a cure, pray for medications to have no side effects, pray for restoration and clarity, Pray for them to have the strength to go through. That’s what you can do. Offer support & offer love, these communities of people already feel isolated and ridiculed. I said this because you have no idea just how many people I have met & sat down & listened to their stories about how the church hurt them & ran them off. As a believer In Jesus myself, we must do BETTER!

We need to educate beyond the common mental health conditions of depression & anxiety, and beyond the “acceptable” conditions like cancer, diabetes, dementia, autism, ect. Hopefully you get my point. I’m not dismissing these conditions at all, just desiring more public awareness for Mental health conditions such as BP, bpd, schizophrenia, PTSD, suicidal ideation, ect. Which are all attached to stigma! We must eradicate stigma! People are out here suffering in silence! Wearing masks so good they fool their loved ones because they don’t want anyone to know what’s going on inside. They won’t get help because of fear of stigma! They have no one to talk to because others won’t listen. Their feelings are dismissed by advice being given instead. They feel misunderstood because when the one person they hoped would offer support, didn’t. Their scared and scarred. This is why when someone takes their own life, everyone usually says they seemed happy and didn’t know anything was going on.

My thoughts on evil…Don’t get me twisted there are people who are evil, commit heinous crimes, do pure evil acts, and then we find out through media that they’ve been declared “legally insane” or “mentally ill” which makes every single person who has a mental health condition/illness viewed in a bad light. Which in my own opinion creates ongoing stigma because it’s not all the details, most times we just read, “school shooting and shooter has a history of mental illness”. Their behaviors are influenced by what they feed their thoughts not simply just because they have an illness. And there are always a whole bunch of other factors that play a huge part in someones health declining. Usually it’s because they either aren’t receiving treatment, or they haven’t found the right treatment yet, or medications arent being taken or medications need to be adjusted, ect.

What I don’t agree with is putting everyone in the same boat. Everyone’s journey is different. Even people with the same health diagnosis can live with completely different challenges & experiences. So my truth may not be yours. But this is mine!

My truth is my lived experience while raising children with various health challenges, and I’m not cursed and I did nothing wrong for those who think so. My family is blessed beyond measure. God has chosen to give us this journey, this purpose to serve on this platform. God is my waymaker. Jesus is my Savior. God is my sustainer. God is my EVERYTHING. Thank you Lord! #MyJourney #MyTruth #MentalHealthMatters #Unashamed #SpeakYourTruth #BeKind #EducateYourself #RespectTheJourney

Lastly, here are some resources that could help save a life or help you learn more.

Mentalhealthfirstaid.org
Nami.org
NIMH.nih.gov
Blurtitout.org
Bphope.com
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Understood.org
https://www.navos.org/


Crisis Textline 741741 text (Home) 24/7
Suicide Prevention Line 24/7
(800) 273-8255
Pierce County Crisis Line
(800) 576-7764
24 hour crisis line
(866) 427-4747
Teen Link (6pm-10pm)
(866) 833-6546

Thanks again for being here. This was a post I wrote on my personal social media & wanted to share it here.

“What’s wrong with him?” #specialneeds #mentalhealth

As a mom to my son, Erik. Down thru the years I have encountered some very nice people, but sadly I have also encountered some very nasty and ugly people. I have been asked by people of all ages from his peers to adults, “WHATS WRONG WITH HIM?” Mostly when he wasn’t talking yet and he was only able to make sounds and body movements for expressing excitement. Back then he used sign language mostly.

I have also witnessed others like my son being mistreated, overlooked, stared upon with disgust, and it really takes me to a place that others rarely see I can go. YES, I have a button so don’t push it. I can turn into the incredible Hulk when you mistreat my child.

So here’s a challenge for life to the ones who are uneducated, uninformed, maybe willfully ignorant, or possibly just a mean spirited person.

When it comes to a negative perspective about individuals with special healthcare challenges, RATHER THAN ASKING YOURSELF “WHATS WRONG WITH HIM/HER?” How about you take a moment to get to know the person so you can learn everything that is right about them? Just because a person is nonverbal doesn’t mean they aren’t able to comprehend how you treat them or what your saying. Just because a person talks loudly doesn’t mean that they are angry or needs to be restrained. Just because a person is wheelchair bound doesn’t mean they don’t still have other abilities, some that may blow you away. Just because a person may appear to be “limited” doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t be able to break the “limits” you think can’t be broken. Just because a person may look very different, act very different, respond differently, or express themselves differently, doesn’t give another person the right to mistreat them, shun them, or say nasty things about them. After all, we’re all different already, no one is the same. So next time your out and you run into someone who’s living with obvious special challenges, take a moment to smile at them, say hello, or greet them. Instead of staring, bickering, and acting like their contagious and going to infect you with something.

And to the people who are so perfect and like to stigmatize families that have children or loved ones with special challenges. I would just like to say this, WE DON’T HAVE DEMONS, WE ARE NOT CURSED, WE DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG, AND WE ARE BEING PUNISHED BY GOD BECAUSE WE HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO A CHILD WHO’S DEVELOPED CHALLENGES!!!!!!! I did everything that I know as right to take care of myself, my health and diet, and spiritual walk with God and yes my life still had to endure hardships, various trials and tribulations, go through GREAT suffering, but in spite of it ALL, all these have taught me, compassion, understanding, empathy, patience, faith, how to keep faith during hardships, and to have love for my enemies and ones who despitefully used me.

My son loves God and I believe he has a very special connection to our heavenly father that no one else on this earth has the same.

I’ll never forget when my son was so much younger and we were inside of Walgreens standing in line, and at that time he was probably 5 years old and really just began to talk and learned to say Hi to people and he absolutely loved to get a response and interaction from others. So he would say Hi more than just once and keep saying Hi until he got a reply back. So he said Hi to this lady standing in front of us because she made eye contact with us, and she just kept staring, but said nothing back, then I thought well maybe she doesn’t talk or she could be deaf or something, but NOPE, she heard him because he kept saying Hi, and she deliberately ignored him, and just stared at him like he had a disease, she finally turned and began talking to a person in line. So as Erik kept saying Hi, I turned to my son and said, You know what Erik, its okay if she doesn’t want to say Hi, some people are just rude and don’t realize just how special you are and who they are standing in line with. And he just got excited and at that time he would gesture his arms and make this whoofing sound to express his excitement.

You have to give people time to develop, grow and learn at their own pace sometimes. Sometimes its not always a ONE SIZE FITS ALL world for everyone.

And it’s not always a fair assessment to say a child or teen isn’t able to learn and fail them in your class, just because they are struggling. Have you considered that maybe just maybe it could be your teaching style that needs a different approach or a tweak? Sometimes people are good at doing their own job, but it doesn’t always mean they are good at teaching what they do. Sometimes people are good learners but not good teachers. I’ve witnessed this in college and when I worked an actual 9to5 and had to punch the clock.

I challenge you to make and take time to learn about others and get to know and understand the person you may have looked at “differently” & learn about their journey and maybe you can come to respect and accept who they are.

So it’s because of moments and memories like these that have made me continue to speak out and speak up on behalf of my own son and others who live the daily grind just like me and my family.

Thanks for listening. -EB

Me, mental illness, stigma and speaking out.

This is my experience as I know mental illness, stigma and speaking out. I have a very unique journey, from both sides of the world, one being the “special needs” community, and the other being the isolated world of “mental illness”. Because for some reason God chose to let my children live with a variety of challenges, whether you consider them, “invisible disabilities, high functioning, special needs, intellectual disabilities, mentally challenged, developmentally delayed, etc” the list goes on and on and I am so used to it, that those are just words now. I could care less. I use them myself because that’s how some can identify with what I’m explaining. I do however care when it comes to offensive derogatory words or stigma!

[wpedon id=”1071″]

As a caregiver & mom of children who are living with mental health challenges, and developmental delays and when my world became flipped upside down and torn to shreds in those intense “Never would have imagined this could happen to me” moments, I went thru various stages of emotions.

First, was the “why” phase. When I ask God why is this happening to my child? Second, was the “anger” phase. When I grew angry at the fact that life as I once knew It, became a stranger to me and there was nothing that could be done to change what was standing and existing right in front of me. Then came the “what, how, when, why” phase. This is where things seemed like it was going to remain stuck in turmoil and all the questions came into play. What if they never bounce back to their normal self? What if they will never be able to overcome this? What if I have lost the child I once knew before? What will their future look like? What if others find out what they’ve went through, will they be treated different? What if I lose friends myself? How did this happen? When did things change? Did I miss something? Why did it happen? Who do I turn to for help? Who can I talk to about such personal and scary stuff without being stigmatized? These were just some of my concerns and questions when my world flipped upside down the first time, during my son’s 8th grade year.

Now, nearly 6 years later. After having educated my own self about mental health and mental illnesses, and becoming involved with advocacy. My questions and concerns, and feelings have shifted. Now I ask. Why don’t people want to learn more about mental illnesses, and symptoms and how to identify a person in crisis? When will others realize that mental illnesses are brain disorders and they are caused by something medical, yet it’s mostly always labeled as “mental” so it’s dismissed that bipolar, schizophrenia are medicaly related? What if it was YOU, what if this happened to you, how would you want others to treat you? Why does the media continue to make every person living with mental illness look like a evil person? When are we going to see the people who are living successfully with mental illness? When are we going to see the commercials that someone with bipolar 1 disorder, overcame and graduated college? What would you do if your own brain had some thing similar to a heart attack? Why does there seem to be a separation between a person who has Autism, versus a person who has both Autism and Bipolar 1? Or has one but not the other? How would you feel if you were stigmatized because your child became diagnosed with Autism or Bipolar? And people said you must be cursed because your kids have issues? Why is it even okay that the media is allowed to portray false representations of mental illness?How can we eradicate stigma? What’s it going to take to eradicate stigma? Why isn’t it mandatory to be educated to the student body in high schools nationwide and staff? When will ER staff learn how to respond and what to do effectively in a mental health crisis? When will others learn that mental illness isn’t like a cold that you can catch? When will others see that NOT every individual who has a mental illness also has a drug addiction? When will people realize that NO one, NOT one person is exempt from becoming mentally ill? I say that to drive home a point, and some can disagree and maybe this is my angry phase once again, but when are people going to realize that just as much and as “normal” as my son was prior to his mental break, and as healthy as he ate and athletic as he is, and intelligent as he is, IT still wasn’t enough to keep bipolar from blowing our way and impacting his life. He was born on time, no complications, met every milestone on time or early in his development. Smart as a whip. So it doesn’t matter who you are, how healthy you eat, how active you are, what your age is, because for us, it was like one day this, and the following day literally EVERYTHING CHANGED! So learn about mental health, educate yourself. What happened to my family, can very well at any time happen to yours. Just as similar as a person who has a sudden cardiac arrest after sailing along thru life just fine, this is how I felt my son was suffering from a sudden misfire in his brain. And I truly hope and pray that one day we can find prevention, that mental illness can be detected early in children, instead of waiting until 18 to get a diagnosis. I hope that EEG’s or blood tests one day will be able to identify specifics of what looks like bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, borderline. I pray for everyone to become better informed. Especially those who are in uniforms and in a first responder role, so they can help people receive appropriate and effective treatment. I pray that mental health laws would enforced with better outcomes for both the individual and the caregiver. I pray that there would be a better more efficient way to identify someone in a mental health crisis, rather than ALWAYS having to treat them as if their on drugs or high off of them just because some symptoms are presently the same. Yet every second is crucial for a persons brain and the trauma it is going thru. I pray for better science and medical treatment.

When will the media begin showing the positive successes of individuals who live with mental illness as college graduates, high school honor students, successful engineers, game developers? Instead of always portraying the few that have had not so good outcomes. Yet the media always shows the person who commits a violent crime, and quick to mention their “mentally ill” but fails to often mention the other facts that they’ve stopped taking their medication and began self medicating.

Mental illnesses aren’t what causes evil. Evil meditations cause people to become evil, not the mental illness. I’m just saying from experience, not all people who have a mental illness are evil. Yes its possible for an evil person to have a mental illness, but again its not the mental illness that drives evil.

Mental illness often times gets the blame for heinous crimes. This is why stigma continues. Because we’re missing all the facts people! It seems like whenever a heinous crime is in the media, and Mental illness is mentioned, that alone overshadows all the remaining components to that person’s character and choices which influenced their decision to commit a heinous crime.

Mental illness is often depicted in movies as something “crazy”, “psycho”, or “dark”, “evil” because they take a character, write that he has a Mental illness and portray him as such horrific things. And this is what we support people. To those who like those horror flicks, or killer movies, which in my opinion feeds the stigma. You’ll NEVER get it, until or unless someone near and dear to you becomes sick with a mental illness. Then and only then will you view things in a different light, will you then become a little more sensitive to things you never were before. Anyways, I know what I know and so it doesn’t and will not matter what others opinions are to my own facts as I have lived them. There’s an old saying, just keep on living and after while…….

I guess I can’t expect everyone to get it! Especially those who haven’t lived a similat journey. And btw, no it’s not all peaches and cream. It’s a lot of sleepless nights, walking on eggshells, and alot of effort goes into continual caregiving and giving a care. But when you’ve walked a similar path to that of mine, then and only then will you get it. If you have questions, please contact me privately, don’t post a long comment.

Anyways….

The people I have met are very inspiring. They are some of the most kind-hearted, fragile, soft spoken, upbeat, funny, energetic, loving, compassionate individuals I have ever met.

I have had a very unique opportunity to meet individuals who are battling everyday with their mental health, yet because their mental illness is “invisible” to others, their mixed in and combined within the general pool of applicants, students, interns, positions, classes, etc. And to their credit, it is no ones business unless they choose to share that they battle depression, Anxiety, bipolar, etc. Yet these same individuals are just as successful, have graduated with honors, have went onto college, have become famous athletes, have became well known in society, but only few have chose to break their silence and share their journey of how they have not allowed their mental illness to cripple them. I wish anyone who has a respectable platform who has fought tooth and nail, would share to inspire others, educate the general public, and give hope to family members.

I am like Martin Luther King Jr, and I too have a dream. I dream that one day every person will be educated about mental illness and eradicate stigma that continues to exist due to ignorance and false representations. I dream that one day there will be a medical procedure to quickly and accurately identify people who are in mental health decline, rather than treating them as a drug addict or violent aggressor. I dream that we will find a cure for mental illness. I dream for a better future for individuals who live with bipolar, schizophrenia, ptsd, ADHD, autism, aspergers, borderline personality, and all others. I dream that I will live long too see change for the better. I dream that there would be equal compassion for every one who battles an illness, cancer, disease or life impacting, debilitating sickness. I dream that individuals who battle with mental illness will receive just as much compassion as individuals who battle cancer or autism or other life altering ailments.

If you’ve read this and are out of touch, uninformed or misinformed please take and make time to become in touch, informed and accurately educated about how to help someone in crisis. You could save a life!

To those who follow the articles I write, once again, thank you for being here. I know it’s been awhile. I appreciate your support and don’t take it lightly. And thank you to those who share my articles on their social platforms and outlets.

Blessings to all! – E. Brooks

Church inclusion for special needs families.

This is my Facebook post on my personal account.

I know most people who are similar to my own family and its dynamics probably find it difficult to do any outside activities, depending upon our loved ones challenges. But down through the years of raising my family and my youngest child, I have had both failures and successes.

I have experienced those horrible moments of being laughed at, pointed at, talked about with the whispers as we pass by, oftentimes made to feel unwanted and misunderstood by his behaviors as a younger child living with developmental delays. It has always been my stance and his siblings to protect and watch over him. To use our voices to speak on his behalf or to stop the stigma that others may have thrown our way.

So with our life experiences and God as our center of hope, faith and love for others, it was impressed in our spirit to begin a ministry to cater to other families like us.

In addition to talking with other families we have met, mostly all feeling the same way as us, we began to see a great need within our own community for a special needs ministry. A service where these families can come and worship God together in the same sanctuary. Our loved ones can be involved with the service in their own way of expression. Whether it be them sitting, standing, running, jumping, rocking in their seat, walking the floor, clapping, shouting with a joyful noise, whatever their ability to praise God. There are no stares, there is no pressure to feel unwelcome for being “different”. Just a place where all families can come together in one place, God’s House and feel the love, and be able to meet others who can truly relate to our daily living.

The service includes everyone and offers a time for those who may want to share their story about their journey. Individuals are included for a time of prayer, scripture reading. Followed by music, a gospel message and invitation at the altar.

I would like to ask every person that is supportive of this ministry and has personal social media accounts to share this news within their community and with their followers. We hope to inspire other churches to grab ahold of this great need for those who have been overlooked and forgotten by people, but NOT by God.

We are NOT FORGOTTEN MINISTRIES. Come join us every 3rd Sunday afternoon at 1pm.

Thank you for the support. Blessings!

Toy Story 4 & Another small victory!

My youngest son, Erik is 17 yrs old. He has developmental challenges and today we decided to take him to see Toy Story 4. Afterall, we have all had a long month with his knee injury and he is finally up and walking again.

Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

The last time he was in a movie theater to try and see something was when Rio was out and that was 2011. I remember he was 9-1/2 years old at that time. He had a fear of darkness and loud noises. It was a “sensory film” featured at our local AMC theater. This was inspired by individuals living with autism and/or other special needs. It was supposed to be a movie with the lights dimmed low, and the sound not as loud as normal showings.

However, I’ll never forget that day because the person in charge of operations, messed up and blasted the sound before turning it down, and forgot to leave the lights dimmed at first. It took a lot of coaching, verbal cues to survive that movie. I remember other children running around and walking the aisles. My son sat still frightened in his reclining chair, while wearing his headphones. I don’t recall being able to focus on the movie myself because I was too busy making sure he was okay. I also remember telling myself and my husband, “Never again! I guess we’ll never be able to take him to a movie theater because it was just too much.” And from that time forward to today, our family has always waited until summer and been fortunate that there is a drive-in theater where we can go together with no issues.

HOWEVER!! Today, was a completely different story! I waited until last night to tell him we are taking him to see Toy Story 4. Anyone else who has a special child like my Erik, probably can relate to picking your battles and knowing your child’s behaviors. I wait to tell him things because otherwise I have to hear about it all day and everyday leading up to the event. And sometimes it causes anxiety for him which can backfire our plans.

Happy moment for Erik!

Anyways, I told him last night and he was happy. He picked up his phone that and began typing on his notepad, “tomorrow we go see movie toy story 4 mom and dad”. And he did his little self talk all evening.

On the drive to the theater my own anxiety began to build a little, thinking what if he talks to loudly and disrupts the others, or if he begins throwing a fit? But I explained to him during the drive there, “Erik the movie theater is going to be dark inside but it will be okay, and you will be safe, me and dad will be with you and it’s gonna kinda be like the little theater at your school when you had your senior awards night.” He was okay with that. I had to try and use a familiar experience with a good outcome that he could relate to. And it worked! Because when we got to the theater he went up a few stairs and sat in the chair. At first he seemed afraid, but he told himself, “its okay, Erik, this is just like your school when you had senior awards night, your okay, your gonna see Toy Story and get to sing your song, you got a friend in me.”

Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

The good thing is that the recliner chairs in the theater are very similar to what we have at home so that fear he had at 9-1/2 for reclining back was not there anymore. His dad showed him where the buttons were and he reclined his feet and they shared their popcorn and he was set. At first I thought he was going to startle from the sound so I brought his head phones just in case, but he didn’t need them. I was so proud of him!

He even got to sing his favorite theme song along with the movie. And he made a couple of remarks during the movie which were appropriate during some of the scenes with Woody and Buzz and some new characters. I won’t say anymore, because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet.

My son and my husband

As the film ended after about an hour and a half, we walked to the van and my son said, “I did it, I saw Toy Story 4 now and I did good.” My husband and I reassured him that indeed he did a great job.

I wrote this article today to hopefully inspire another mom or caregiver that may have lost hope or might be feeling like they won’t ever be able to take their child to do things that others can do.

To anyone who is reading this and has walked along my path, I will just say, what didn’t go well today, doesn’t mean it won’t go well for you in the future. Never give up hope for your loved one / child’s abilities to accomplish even the smallest of things. What other families may take for granted we know that these small things are a huge milestone for us.

It may take months for some to reach that next milestone and years for others, but just keep trying and insert new experiences here and there. Allow your child to develop courage and overcome fears, while you learn what it is to appreciate the small things in life. Those small things that we sometimes don’t appreciate because maybe we spend too much time complaining about things.

I think what is most helpful for me, is knowing what MY OWN REALITY is and not wishing to be like other families. Because if I keep measuring my son’s growth to that of someone he isn’t than I’m living in a fantasy and not reality.

I used to be like that, and its not helpful and it wasn’t good. Anyone who has a special needs child can probably relate to feeling like your world is different and unrelatable. But in fact, it is much more common than you have allowed yourself to experience. It seems as though most of us are inside, behind closed doors, kept quiet and shielded from potential harm. But I’ve discovered that there is a community for us.

I hope everyone has something to appreciate about their child and themselves. Even if it seems little. An accomplishment is an accomplishment no matter what. And today, July 9th, 2019. This was Eriks, that he was able to see a movie in a theater without being afraid and without being disruptive. And it wasn’t even a sensory film and it was at a much nicer theater than the AMC that we attended in 2011.

Thanks for being here and thanks for listening. If there is another mom, dad or caregiver reading this that feels discouraged about their child’s diagnosis or development please trust the process and keep your faith. It will happen for you in due time.

Blessings!

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Inspiration & Hope that came from suffering & pain.

This will NEVER get old for me. It’s just a small part of my son’s journey.

My son’s news stories from 2014.

My son 4months old, after ICD implant surgery in 2001.

My son after surgery, removal of his ICD implant.

He is teaching me about living life to its fullest potential even when things are designed to get you down.  He has taught me how to have joy even in the midst of loss and tragedy. If only the world could know just how amazing this kid is! Nearly every person who has a chance to meet and interact with him, always says he is one of a kind.

I’m so blessed to have Erik as my son just as he is, developmental delays and ALL. And I would NOT change a single thing about him. He brightens my day. You would think as a mom I am teaching him about life, but he is indeed teaching me instead. He has compassion for others to the extent that he prays each night and mentions by name others who he has met or knows that are in need of something that only God can give to them. He just has such a confidence that I admire.  And he has a faith that is undeniable.


My son praying during the special needs service.

This kid could have mustard on his shirt, walk into a room of executives and still be confident to walk up, shake their hand, introduce himself and spark a conversation without feeling any shame. Seriously!

In spite of the sufferings along the journey, in spite of all the tears I cried, praying consistently down through the years for strength and endurance, I have to say, it’s evident that this has all been a part of Gods plan to teach me humility, patience, forbearance, compassion, empathy, how to suffer, giving me a testimony to inspire others, and to see the glory in the midst of it all.

Everybody always wants blessings but nobody ever wants to suffer. Everyone wants to skip passed the bad stuff and go straight to the good stuff. But that didn’t happen in my journey. Yet, now, in hindsight, I would not change a thing. I’ve learned so much watching Erik grow and develop at his pace. It’s because my family has Erik, that his siblings have compassion for others and without stigma or judgment. It’s because of Erik that we understand struggles and acceptance. It’s because of Erik along with my other children who battle mental illness, that I created this website called “stigmasnomore.com”. It’s because of God, our faith and HIS grace that we are able to share this journey with others.  It’s because of the suffering that others didn’t see, that we are blessed that others do see.

Thank you for being here. This next chapter is going to just keep getting better!

I am beginning to write my first book soon, so I hope once it’s on bookshelves, that you will buy it and help it become a best seller.

You can donate here if you’d like to help me with start up costs. ⏬⏬⏬⏬

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I want to tell everyone who reads this article, who is a parent or caregiver, always stay the course, and don’t measure your growth to that of others instead measure to your own. Everyone comes from different walks of life, each at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush the process or you might wind up with raw results.  Just keep going.

Blessings!

NEVER let anyone limit your child’s development. #Specialneeds #proudmama

My son, Erik is a senior this year. He will be graduating this Thursday and he is so full of emotions.

He fractured his knee this past Wednesday at school during his bike club. So he is back in a wheelchair. He hasn’t had to use one since he was a smaller child. Back then it was from his developmental delays, today its because he fractured his knee somehow.

Myself, my son and one of his many teachers.

Prayers are appreciated. We have had to pay for a ramp since insurance didn’t cover the prescription. But the most important thing is that he is still in good spirits.

His teachers and therapists at school have been amazing! We are truly going to miss them all. He is going to miss seeing his friends everyday.

My son & his friends & Ms Falconer

My compassion for others who are wheelchair bound has increased even more because I am getting only a fraction of what they live with on a daily but I’m speaking from a caregiver position.

I’m sharing some inspiring video of my son at his classroom party and his senior awards night. He received two awards at senior awards night as Valedictorian and Superintendents scholarship award.


I love his spirit! Even when he’s down, he’s up.

And again, don’t you ever let anyone, I repeat, ANYONE tell you what your child will never be able to do! Because faith and a will to do, have the final say!

Thanks for being here again.

1 year Anniversary of Not Forgotten Ministries. #SpecialNeeds #families #church

Today, marked the 1 year anniversary of the special needs church ministry that my husband began in May of 2018. I follow his lead as he is operating in his purpose. The name of the ministry is called Not Forgotten Ministries. Such a fitting name for the ministry, because we want other families who have special needs loved ones or individuals living with disabilities or other mental or physical healthcare challenges to know they are not forgotten by God.

Church Info

We had 3 new visitors along with their family or caregiver today. It truly did my heart some good today to see the people participate in prayer, scripture reading and singing along.

A mother sharing her story about her daughter’s health challenges & God’s goodness

Pics from Not Forgotten Ministries

Our service isn’t your typical church service either. It is geared specifically for special needs families. The entire family. Not to separate the individual with special needs from their family but rather include the whole family in one service. We always offer to involve everyone with prayer, scripture reading, and a brief time for sharing their story. Followed by the word of God, more prayer and benediction, but at times we go off script to accommodate the needs of God’s people.

The girls playing with balloons in the kitchen during refreshments

It’s always lovely to hear others share their stories about the journey with their special loved one and all they have overcome or are still handling today. Especially the other mom who shared today, about how happy she was at the service, mentioning that she had been to a different church that was supposed to be for special needs families, but they separated her from her daughter, while she was able to attend service with the congregation, they took her daughter into a private room with others to watch the service on a monitor and she said she didn’t like how that made her feel. So it was really nice to hear that she felt welcomed and comfortable.

As a mom, caregiver myself, I know first-hand the daily battles, struggles, victories, achievements and strength it takes to do it every single day. It’s not always peaches and cream and its not always smooth sailing, but I will admit, it is ALWAYS worth my time, my love, my support and my efforts to help my children and others within our community.

Me holding sis Shana’s newborn baby girl, Novalee. Such a precious baby. She was born premature, but God has blessed her with good health.

I am sharing these short video clips to show the glory of Gods special people. I was told by one caregiver that today was her very first time hearing her client pray and that it touched her heart. These families come from all kinds of different walks of life, Autism, ODDS, Epilepsy, Dementia, Developmental delays, mental health challenges but we all come together here in one place, unified as one body in Christ. We know our loved ones diagnosis but it’s like white noise to us. We only speak, write about, refer to it because it’s how others can identify with us at times.

I truly hope to possibly inspire others by sharing this. And maybe if you happen to be a minister or pastor of a church, you too will become inspired to begin a similar ministry in your town. There are many families just like mine, just like these, that would love an opportunity to come together at church and feel welcomed, accepted and understood. Again, this is not your typical quiet service. We cater to the needs of the people and their families as we realize the sensory issues and the other need to express themselves openly. We are all Gods people. We are all loved. We are all unique and wonderfully made. Created by God in his image and his likeness.

So to that other parent, caregiver or individual who’s reading this and living with health care challenges, don’t ever let someone shame you or make you feel less than worthy, just because your blessed to be who you are, or the person your caring for. Don’t allow others to stigmatize you. Hold your head high, walk in confidence and be proud of the life you have! Share your story to inspire others.  Tell your story to educate others.

I hope I was able to encourage someone this evening!

Thanks for being here again.